Genome editing, metaphors and language choices

Genetic Alliance and the Progress Educational Trust recently published a report entitled ‘’Basic understanding of genome editing”, based on research supported by the Wellcome Trust. As I have worked on metaphors relating to genetic, genomics and genome editing for more than twenty years, I was particularly interested in this report. Unlike many other publications, including …

Why are NGOs sceptical of gene editing?

This is a guest post by Richard Helliwell. It is based on the recent article Why are NGOs sceptical of genome editing? published in EMBO Reports, co-authored with Sarah Hartley (University of Exeter) Warren Pearce (University of Sheffield), and Liz O’Neill (GM Freeze). It is the first study examining NGO perspectives on genome editing. Genome …

Designer babies? Not again!

Preface: I had just put the finishing touches to this post and I was doing the washing up, when I heard on the six o’clock news that the paper I’ll talk about below has now been published in Nature. I’ll still publish this post though. It would great to compare the pre-paper news coverage with the post-paper …

Biosocial: A brief conceptual history

I have recently come across the word ‘biosocial’ in various social science debates about epigenetics and other advances in the life- and bio-sciences. A chapter in a book on ‘social epigenetics’ (and the ‘biosocial’) says for example: “Epigenetics has considerable potential to transform social science by embedding mutually regulative reciprocal connections between biological and social …

Hybrids and chimeras: Mythology, history and science

Last week two papers were published about human and other chimeras, one in Cell on ‘Interspecies chimerism with mammalian pluripotent stem cells’ and one in Nature entitled ‘Interspecies organogenesis generates autologous functional islets’. The first one caused a bit of a stir in the newspapers. About 70 newspaper articles covered this potential scientific breakthrough in All …

Making sense of plasticity

I recently got an invitation to a workshop on ‘Plasticity and its Limits’ (which will bring together scholars from the social sciences, humanities and life sciences). When I accepted the invitation I had, I have to confess, not given much thought to the concept of plasticity – I had, however, written some blog posts about …

Assembling a synthetic human genome: Science and the politics of openness

There has recently been some commotion in the field of synthetic biology about a meeting held at Harvard on 10 May 2016 at which scientists discussed the creation of a synthetic human genome. The meeting was a closed, invitation-only meeting. In a field of science that takes pride in its openness and transparency, this created …

On books, circuits and life

I have recently been trying to understand CRISPR, gene editing and genome editing. While reading about these new developments in genomics, I noticed that in the avalanche of news reports reference is only rarely made to synthetic biology (on 5 January there were 188 articles on CRISPR in Major World Newspapers on the LexisNexis news …

On the metaphorical origins of gene drives

This morning I woke up to a bit of chat about ‘gene drive‘ – this year’s science breakthrough of the year –, first on twitter, then on the radio. This made me think about the use of terms like gene drive, gene driver, gene driving and where they come from. It also made me think …